Understanding Dog Aggression-Guide

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Understanding Dog Aggression-Guide

The aggressiveness of the dog is one of the most delicate subjects to deal with when it comes to training and canine behavior. Quite simply because when a dog happens to attack, whether it is a human or a fellow-creature, its emotional state is so catastrophic that it sees no other means than aggression.

This is of course disastrous and we suggest here that you understand how a dog can become aggressive, how to channel Its aggressiveness according to each situation but above all (and this is the most important) how to ensure that a dog does not come to such a point, in many cases, of inner malaise.

An “aggressive” dog is not born mean!

First of all, it seems important to us to specify that a dog will not be born aggressive. The so-called “bad” dog becomes aggressive for different reasons that we will discuss later. But know that a dog will always be aggressive for one (or more) reasons and that in many cases, it is human failures or repeated unconsciousness that leads a dog to find aggression as the only escape route.

The 8 Types of Aggression

In education and behavior analysis, we can distinguish 8 types of aggression in dogs. Indeed, the dog will always have a reason to bite. Before reaching such a point, it will emit, if it is sufficiently “coded”, a certain number of signals to prevent: such as grunting, showing teeth, licking its nose, etc. (unless the aggression is caused by fear).

However, if all these signals are not “read” or understood by the person or the dog concerned, the said “mean” dog will therefore have no other choice but to attack.

The aggressiveness of the dog by possessiveness

In this case, the dog tries to scare away the intruder who threatens Its resources. We can then observe aggression by possessiveness concerning various resources such as food, space, or even the need for control of a member of Its social group. We will see later how to solve the problem of aggression by possessiveness.

The aggressiveness of the dog by predation

Mainly concerning dogs which hunts for food or for those who have a very strong predatory instinct (hunting dogs and / or primitive dogs). This behavior can also be observed in dogs needing to control what is moving (a herd for example).

The aggressiveness of the “territorial” dog

This aggression concerns dogs whose mission (wanted or not by the owners) to guard/protect a space and therefore to scare away any intruders. This is part of the dog’s aggressiveness by possessiveness, mainly directed towards space.

This is called the instinct of guard, either the dog has it, or It does not have it and know that it is moreover forbidden to “mount a dog on the guard”.

However, custody should be limited to preventing and not assaulting. A guard dog is not a mean dog, it is a dog that warns and should only have a dissuasive role.

The aggressiveness of the dog by irritation

This aggression concerns dogs who are “at the end of the line” and who cannot get out of a situation that irritates them. Irritation is also often the main cause of attacks on children, for example.

This is because children rarely have the ability to read dogs’ warning signs and this causes dogs to aggress to get out of certain irritating situations for them.

Hence the importance of establishing rules of life for all members of the family with regard to contact with the dog.

The aggressiveness of the dog out of fear

In our opinion, this aggression is certainly the most difficult to manage because when a dog attacks out of fear, it generally does not warn its “victims” at all. This makes a dog aggressive out of fear a dog that can be completely unpredictable.

The dog’s maternal aggressiveness

This aggression concerns of course mothers who want to protect their young cubs.

The aggressiveness of the dog by pain

This aggression concerns sick, injured, and/or elderly dogs. The nicest dog in the world might be aggressive following an injury to protect Itself and avoid further pain. This is clearly an attitude of protection, of survival, from the point of view of the dog and it does not mean that the dog should then be labeled as “aggressive” afterward.

The aggressiveness of the dog re-directed

This aggression is quite common and is often not voluntary. These are dogs who are irritated by a situation and who will therefore vent their emotional excess on the first individual. The goal of re-directed aggression is therefore to restore a stable emotional state, by any means.

So we’ve seen the different types of aggression, which should normally give you an idea to possibly understand your dog’s aggressive behavior (if that’s your case). But we suggest you see with us other causes that can lead a dog to be aggressive.

Understanding Dog Aggression-Guide

The Main Causes Of Aggressive Behavior

(other than the 7 types of aggression mentioned above)

 

  • Poor development: So when you adopt a puppy from a kennel, learn as much as possible about the mother’s mental and physical health during gestation. Always prefer to change breeding if the development conditions of your future dog (a dog that you will have for more than 10 years, do not forget) doesn’t seem optimal to you.
  • Poor socialization: Know that the socialization of a dog must be done between its 3 and its first 12 weeks of life. So, if you do the math right, when you adopt your puppy at 8 weeks old (legal selling age, never agree to buy/adopt a puppy before that age), you only have one month to give It as many rich, positive and varied experiences as possible. But the work must above all be initiated by the breeder because the first weeks of socialization of the puppy must not be “wasted”. So, once again, choose your breeding carefully!
  • A bad experience: This is often the case with dogs that experience ”  hyper socialization  “. Let us explain: in contrast masters who lock their puppies and put them in quarantine until the last vaccine, some take their puppies everywhere, make their living a multitude of experiences and that’s a good thing …  these meetings must be productive and not devastating! Indeed, we must never forget that the experiences must be regular and above all positive! In addition, when offering a new environment to a puppy, it is necessary to respect its rhythm and not make the novelty last too long at the risk of exhausting the puppy.
  • A predisposition to fear: Finally, there are dogs that are, not aggressive from birth, but fearful naturally (which can then result in aggression). But we absolutely must not take the shortcut of saying that a dog was born aggressive! It was certainly born more suspicious and fearful than others, but aggression will only be the response to an out of balance emotional state.

These dogs are recognizable in the litter because they are the ones that will not come towards you full of spirits, they will often be hidden under furniture and will not appreciate the contact.

Understanding Dog Aggression-Guide

3 major tips to avoid dog aggression

Know how to read and understand the signals emitted by the dog.

Indeed, naturally, a dog will seek to avoid conflict rather than provoke it. Thus, it is important to know how to decode all the signals sent by the dog, in particular, to avoid attacks on humans.

Regarding interactions and potentially aggression between dogs, this is where the importance of good socialization comes into play because a dog who will have communicated from an early age with other dogs will thus be able to know and use the canine codes to communicate with its congeners and therefore, a fortiori, avoid conflicts.

Some examples of signals that can alert you to a dog’s ill-being: It will yawn, look away, lick Its nose (be careful, if the licks are repeated and rapid, this translates to an illness such as aggression is not far away).

Then there are of course the warning signs: barking, growling, “smiling” or even quick nose licking and repeated as mentioned above.

Understanding Dog Aggression-Guide

Offer quality socialization

We have partially mentioned it previously, but we would like to remind you here of the importance of good socialization to allow the dog to experience different situations. Always assume that a dog will be afraid of what It does not know.

Thus, allow your dog to meet as many dogs as possible (being almost certain that it will go well, of course, the encounters must above all be controlled ), but also a multitude of different situations and environments: the city, the forest, the market, the car, importable noises, different people, atypical objects, etc

Have a relationship of trust and mutual respect with your dog

Know that your dog must consider you as Its referent, Its “guardian”, you must therefore play this role! So, have a consistent attitude, well-defined daily rules of life, and above all: have confidence in yourself and your dog! If you are already 1000% sure that everything will go well, this will not necessarily solve all the problems, for all the situations, but believe us, the process will be different! Quite simply because you will impose a framework and a reassuring attitude on your dog.

And finally, let’s see how to resolve an already installed aggressiveness. Whether it is an aggression on humans, objects, or congeners.

It’s of course necessary to find the cause of the aggressiveness of the dog in question in order to understand it.

Avenues depending On The Various Context Of Dog Aggression

  • At first, it seems essential to us to positively teach your dog how to wear a muzzle because this will allow you to work with a better peace of mind because, “at worst”, there will be no unfortunate consequences. It will help give you more confidence and therefore it will reflect on your dog’s emotional stay
  • It’s important to us to remember the importance of knowing how to read and interpret all the warning and appeasement signals of your dog to anticipate Its reactions as much as possible and allow It to find a stable emotional state. , by changing the environment, your posture, by moving away from the source of Its worries, etc. The objective here will be to restore the confidence and security which your dog lacks at the moment, but also to anticipate possible aggressions by irritation.
  • For dogs who are worried, fearful,  and who aggress to protect themselves, it is advisable to set up a reassuring routine for them. So, have a rhythmic and well-oiled lifestyle. Be careful though to offer a reassuring and non-stressful routine. If for example your dog is afraid of strangers and you always go for a walk when there are people in the street: this is not doing It a favor!
  • Likewise, if for example, your dog becomes aggressive at the sight of children or crowds: stay away and offer your dog an activity that it loves while gradually approaching It so that It considers the presence of a group of people like something positive. However, for this type of work plan, we recommend that you offer it to your dog with the presence and support of a professional dog trainer to not go too fast in the process and always adopt the right attitude. This is what we call a work of habituation and familiarization: it cannot be improvised and can if it is poorly proposed, aggravate the problem.
  • When you have an aggressive dog, whether for any reason: it is essential to establish quality obedience! It may seem ridiculous but dog trainers can observe a clear difference between the management of the aggressiveness of a trained dog and the management of the aggressiveness of an uneducated dog! This changes everything because we can control the dog more! It must be said that when a dog is in the process of attack (for any reason whatsoever), It enters a daze and no longer hears/sees anything: a veil is formed! Thus, a good work of education and obedience makes it possible to reduce this moment of non-rights for the dog whereas if there is no obedience, the dog remains in a catastrophic state for much longer because It cannot trust Its master.

Thus, care should be taken to teach the dog indications such as walking on a relaxed leash, “fixed”, not moving, and all static indications in general. In addition, the posture and placement of the handler will be essential to work on non-verbal communication with Its dog as well.

  • If your dog attacks from pain, it will be advisable here to re-establish a coherent communication, a gesture, and adapted intonations, to work the manipulations gently and always in a positive way, without forcing the dog and therefore, in general, to positively reinforce all the contacts proposed. But above all, it will be about respecting the dog! If It needs to be quiet, then we’ll leave It alone. Put yourself in Its place for a moment… When we are in pain, the last thing we want is for someone to fiddle with us.
  • For all attacks linked to the dog’s resources, it will be a question of teaching the dog to share but also, and above all,  teaching all the members of the family the importance of also respecting the dog’s resources. Let’s see in detail the different resources of the dog and how to ensure that they do not become a source of aggression:
    1. The Bed: we will not come to annoy a dog who is in Its bed. It must always assimilate this space as Its place of refuge where It knows that no one will come to bother It.
    2. The sofa: if your dog has access to the sofa but growls when you ask It to come down, we will then make sure to deny It this space until It understands that the sofa is above all a place of sharing.
    3. Food: it will be very important to respect the timing of your dog’s meal (once or twice a day). To prevent your dog from being aggressive when eating, never remove Its bowl or kibble when It’s eating. By doing this you will only increase your dog’s need to protect this resource. So, let your dog eat quietly and, if you really want to, you can, pass by It when It eats, place treats, or some kibble next to It so that It assimilates your presence to something positive. However, if your dog is still aggressive, offer It Its meals no longer in a bowl but rather scattered in the garden for example. Sometimes it’s just the sight of the bowl that makes them “protective”. Finally, do not hesitate to teach your dog the indication “not move” while you put the bowl on the ground and the indication “go eat” so that It understands that you are the initiator of this resource.
  • For many types of aggression, it will be about teaching your dog to give up! And this always goes through obedience with the learning of indication of renunciation: stop, you leave, recall, etc. Learning will have to be done gradually and above all in a positive way, and even through play. Your dog must understand that by giving up, It gains something of great value (it is up to you to find the motivation of your dog: treat, toy, etc.). In short: to give up is to win! In addition, know that it will always be easier to stop an intention to do (when the dog begins to stare at Its “victim” for example) rather than to stop an action already in progress. (when the dog is already attacking) . So be vigilant and watch your dog!

The Veterinarian

Aggression can be caused by a genetic or medical problem! Thus, it will always be good to go to your veterinarian in case of aggressiveness that is not understood/explained. Note that for 60% of dogs who develop aggressive behaviors at the time of puberty, this is due to a genetic problem.

In addition, in many cases, these are problems related to the thyroid and treatment is available (treatment for hyperthyroidism). So don’t wait any longer and go see your veterinarian to rule out any genetic or medical problem.

Final Thoughts

Finally, to conclude, in our opinion the main thing to do when you have an aggressive dog is to really be aware of it and not see it as inevitable! There are solutions that, while sometimes failing to completely solve the problem, can alleviate it and make your life, and especially your dog, easier.

Do not hesitate to call on a behavioral dog trainer, or to ask your veterinarian for advice if It has any notions of canine behavior,  and above all do not give up! Each aggression will be treated in a different way depending on the character of the dog, the proposed lifestyle, and the attitude of the owner. So there is no magic recipe so don’t be afraid to ask for help!

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About Amanda

Passionate about animals, Amanda draws her expertise from her training as an educator, pet behaviorist as well as her extensive experience with animal owners. A specialist in dog and cat behavior, Amanda continues to learn about our four-legged companions by studying veterinary reference books but also university research sites (UCD, Utrecht, Cambridge, Cornell, etc..)

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